The Cailleach

cailleachThis can be a difficult time of the year: the crazy, obnoxious days between Imbolc (Feb 1) and the Spring Equinox, which occurs on March 20th this year. It’s a season marked by relentless change and brought to bear by the stormy power of the Cailleach as she grudgingly yields her might and majesty to gentle spring breezes; the old god or goddess now must die so the new goddess may be born.

The Cailleach herself was born at Samhain (Halloween), as depicted in the image (above left). Winter is her glory. The dark half of the year is hers alone to rule, and she does so with stubborn scepter and iron thumb. Has anybody really accomplished much since November?

Now, as Maggie Lukowski brilliantly notes in a recent blog, people are squirreling around cleaning out their closets, both literally and metaphorically. Imbolc begins the season of purification. It has been so for thousands of years. It’s in our genes. People have a mysterious, nagging urge to rid themselves of all kinds of clutter that have outlived their usefulness and symbolic essence, as well they should.

C47In Chrysalis Tarot, the Cailleach is represented by The Watcher. While we might think she doth protest springtime, she doth not. Whatever has happened, or is happening, in these days of transition was in her plan all along. It was written in the shadowy spark of her eyes and hidden in the crevices of well worn wrinkles.

The secret to coping with change is acceptance; wholesale acceptance with neither resignation nor regret. Become a wise watcher who dresses in the ubiquitous cycles of life that govern everything in the cosmos. Wear your change well!

If you find yourself fighting off negativity, the Cailleach suggests white sage incense, a talisman and some fresh air.

The half of the year – the half that basks in brilliance – will begin with Beltane (May 1), which means “bright fire” in Gaelic. This is Brigid’s season as the maiden aspect of the goddess ascends her throne. Brigid is born each year at Imbolc as the last breaths of life leave the old Cailleach, the haggard old crone of darkness.


This lovely image is from the new Chrysalis Tarot companion book. It depicts Papa Legba assisting Psyche into his ferryboat for the short journey to the Isle of the Blessed. The meaning and symbolism of this sketch by Holly Sierra, at least as it pertains to this blog, teaches us the importance of enduring the robust darkness of the chrysalis so true personal transformation can occur. Psyche in Greek means both butterfly and soul. In this sketch, Psyche is the transmuted soul of the Cailleach departing into the brightness of the Sun.

She will be gone but for a little while!


For the book, I asked Holly for a sketch of Papa Legba as Charon the Ferryman based upon John Stanhope’s famous painting. I like her interpretation much better!


Chrysalis and The Craft

wheelThe People of the Woods and the Old Ways are dear to many of us for many reasons. These include a profound reverence for the Earth and all living creatures, plus a rejection of the notion that “dominion over the Earth” gives humans license for unrestrained abuse and exploitation. Quite the contrary, in dominion theology the word itself implies benevolence.

For better or worse, our current worldview has been shaped by the creation stories told in Genesis. That’s right, there are two Biblical accounts of creation, and they differ considerably.

We are most familiar with the dominion theology version – the hierarchical, authoritative account of human origins based upon privilege, power and preeminence of the masculine. This version is contrasted by a second – a theology of dependence based upon servanthood, humility and mutual respect.

In this less familiar story of creation, which can be found in Genesis 2, the first humans were created from the arable soil, as were all other life forms. There is no heavy-handed hierarchy; masculine and feminine principles exist in perpetual balance, and humankind holds no distinctive position over other life forms in  dependent theology – a cornerstone of both Chrysalis and The Craft.

Another commonality between Chrysalis and The Craft is the observance of rituals marking the Wheel of the Year and the eternal cycle of life. So we can readily associate a Chrysalis archetype with one of the seasonal festivals, or Sabbats as they are known in Neo-Pagan and other pre-Christian traditions, I devised this list with the caveat that there are various other ways (perceived similarities) to align the sabbats with Chrysalis archetypes, Troupe and pip cards.

The Lesser Sabbat Quarters

C04Winter Solstice or Yule (Dec. 21)

Green Man as the Oak King bids adieu to the Holly King to symbolize re-birth of the solar god. Sacrifices, gift giving and lavish feasting have always been popular Midwinter customs since the Old Stone Age.



C13Spring Equinox or Ostara (Mar. 21)

Ariadne welcomes spring appearing as the Maiden aspect of the Triple Goddess. Decorating eggs, a sign of fertility, was an annual custom at this time of year. Ostara is a Germanic fertility goddess whose attributes include the hare and egg. The word Easter was derived from her name.



C06Summer Solstice or Litha (June 21)

Litha is the time of the sacred marriage of the god and goddess. It’s a gentle time when youth turns to wisdom, as allegorized by Merlin. The Venerable Bede, another great sage, wrote, “Litha means gentle or navigable, because in both these months the calm breezes are gentle and they were wont to sail upon the smooth sea.”


C09Autumn Equinox or Mabon (Sept. 21)

Mabon is a great harvest festival and a time for offering thanks for Earth’s abundance. Storyteller represents the goddess in her crone aspect. She bestows blessings on the community for protection during the cold months of the coming winter.


The Greater Sabbat Cross-Quarters

C05Imbolc (Feb. 1) Divine Child

As the Earth quickens and ewes begin milking, the new born lambs and baby god will be nourished. The goddess is purified and cleansed (spring cleaning ritual) as she prepares to return to her maiden aspect.



C02Beltane (May 1, May Day) Sorceress Morgan le Fay

Beltane (bright fire) heralds a raucous celebration of mysticism and magic replete with bonfires, mead and Maypoles to welcome summer. Morgan subsumes attributes of Flora, the Roman goddess of flowers, for this festive occasion.



C03Lammas (Aug. 1) Gaia

The bread harvest – the first fruits. The goddess as mother imbues the Earth with the energy of abundance. This is the first of the three Wheel of the Year harvest festivals. The other two are Mabon and Samhain. The Sabbat is also known as Lughnasadh, named after the Gaelic god Lugh.


C07Samhain (Nov. 1) Herne the Hunter

This is the time of the Wild Hunt when the curtain between the worlds is lifted and the ancestors roam the moony shadows (Halloween or All Hallows Eve). It is a grand festival of darkness that’s balanced on the opposite side of the wheel by Beltane, the festival of light.


An excellent book on Spiritual Ecology.

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Chrysalis Tarot Companion Book @ Amazon

Fortune Tellers, Prophets and Baba Vanga

C71The topic of fortune telling using tarot cards is controversial; some believe it’s a legitimate use of the cards while others citing ethical concerns do not.

The former camp points to long held traditions, while the latter sees the cards as an aid used to inform choices. They assert that the cards, and those who read them, would would never, or at least should never, interfere with someone’s free will or exploit their expectations.

In Holistic Tarot, author Benebell Went puts it this way: “Having grown up in the Chinese/Taiwanese culture, I was routinely exposed to East Asian fortune-telling practices: face reading; palmistry; Ba Zi, which is the practice of revealing your destiny through date and time of birth; and many more. What I have learned is that fortune-telling is a rudimentary understanding of the cosmic forces that govern us.”

So too are the various categories of western divination. A better question, therefore, is this: is it possible to read the future at all? While I don’t think tarot, per se, is able to peer into the future, there are certain individuals who do have this ability. They are called clairvoyants. Many clairvoyants employ tarot cards as a sort of “jumping off point” used to hone their psychic readings.

You could be one such individual. If you continue to use Chrysalis, you likely soon will be. That is unless you harbor disabling religious beliefs or have an innate psychological resistance to precognition. Chrysalis was designed to increase one’s intuitive skills and psychic abilities; to activate one’s Third Eye and awaken the Higher Self. This is what spiritual formation and the Hero’s Journey in tarot is all about. Precognition ability naturally accompanies spiritual growth. They travel hand in hand.

C47Marie Laveau was known in New Orleans spiritual circles as a Watcher, a mystic who walked hand in hand with spiritual realm. There are other watcher-type characters in Chrysalis. We know them by names like The Visionary, The Illusionist, Morgan le Fay and Papa Legba. All our Chrysalis shamans, such as those depicted on the Nine of Stones and Eight of Mirrors, are also watchers.

Watchers are prophets. They are the Sybils, Pythias and sundry other oracles who have been called on throughout history to reveal what the future holds. This tradition continues today; almost every village in Tibet, for example, has its own official oracle, and the Dalai Lama himself consults the Nechung Oracle (short video) annually.

So where does this secret information come from and why? It comes from the Akasha, a Sanskrit word that means aether, although it is known by other names such as the fifth element, Spirit. The aether, which is an energy field, connects each of us to everything else in the universe and to all information contained in the Akashic Record. This information can aid us, warn us of impending danger, enlighten us and challenge us.

Consider the Akashic Record an energetic field or database that functions like a cybernetic feed back – feed forward loop. For example, Earth’s Collective Unconscious, home to the archetypes, informs the Akashic Record and is in turn informed by the Akashic Record. In fact, the Akashic Record is a universal memory bank that accounts for everything that has ever happened in our universe. It can be accessed by mystics and other awakened souls and used to make fairly accurate predictions about the future, but it is not omniscient (all knowing) – nor for that matter is anything else.

C09This brings us to Baba Vanga. She’s been in the news of late because of some predictions she purportedly made concerning the times we live in. You can read about her in this New York Post article, which includes her photograph. I chose Storyteller’s image for this section because she and Baba Vanga share a great deal in common.

Storyteller is Chrysalis Tarot’s quintessential watcher, and arguably its preeminent spiritual presence. Like Marie Laveau and Morgan le Fay, Storyteller keeps the center of her being on the surface of an altered state of consciousness (ASC). Her mind is always still, uncluttered and free of ego fostered delusion, therefore an ASC is readily attainable.

Suffice it to say that one cannot be a prophet and proclaim future probabilities unless capable of entering an ASC either through deep meditation, yoga, an entheogen or a shamanic ritual. This truism would most certainly exclude boardwalk fortune tellers who read tarot as if it were some form of arcane cryptology. They would be known as false prophets or charlatans.

In closing, it’s worth noting that classical prophecy, which often asserts that bad things are going to happen unless ways are mended, is, in many cases, simply an interpretation of history and pattern recognition. Furthermore, it has nothing to do with divine retribution, which doesn’t happen, and everything to do with humanity heaping misfortune upon itself, or experiencing a natural calamity.

It’s worth noting that we reckon time in a linear fashion, always moving from past to present to future; from cause to effect. This ubiquitous viewpoint has, however, recently come under scientific scrutiny; theories of backward causation are being explicated. The New Physics represents cutting edge scientific thought, not New Age woo-woo. I personally regard the phenomenon of Jungian synchronicity (meaningful coincidence) as a natural, psychokinetic concomitant to backward causation.

For example, say you are earnestly pursuing a spiritual path that leads to your destiny (Higher Self).  You will experience synchronicities more often than, say, someone mired in ego-consciousness. Your future Higher Self acts as a causal agent for this synchronicity. Consequently, when you experience synchronicity, you know you’re making serious spiritual progress. We should always contemplate meaningful synchronous events in our daily lives. Your future is trying to tell you something.

These subjects are discussed in greater depth in our new Chrysalis Tarot companion book.


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